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Pregnant at 40 no longer rare among Swedish mothers

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Pregnant at 40 no longer rare among Swedish mothers
Photos: TT
15:59 CEST+02:00
Sixty-nine Swedish women gave birth at the age of 49 in 2017, highlighting how late motherhood is no longer a taboo nor a rarity for women in Sweden.

The average age of first-time mothers continues to steadily rise in Sweden. 

In 1973, Swedish women gave birth to their first child at the age of 24 on average.

In 2016, the average age was 29, according to Statistics Sweden.

This trends toward delaying pregnancy is also reflected in the increased number of women in their forties willing to have a child at a late age.

The following table illustrates this upward trend among older mothers:

Mother's age    No. of births 2010       No. of births 2017
43                               533                             680
44                               329                             378
45                               196                             230
46                                 87                             101
47                                 45                              61
48                                 14                              25
49                                 22                              69
 
The number of women in their forties having children went from 1,226 in 2010 to 1, 544 in 2017. 

Ulrika Wesström is one of these women. 

She had her third child seven years ago at the age of 49.

“I was in a new relationship, my partner had no children and really wanted them,” she told Swedish news agency TT.

“At first I thought it was a little late, but then I realized that it was an excellent idea.”

According to Wesström, the birth of her son Dante wasn't that different from the previous two.

“Obviously I was worried, but it's always like that when you're pregnant.

“I was terribly tired towards the end of the pregnancy, but in the fifth month we were on a sailing holiday in Croatia and that was no problem.”

Kenny Rodriguez-Wallberg, professor and chief physician at Karolinska University Hospital's section for reproductive medicine, sees several reasons why childbirth is being delayed by women in Sweden.

“Men and women today put a high value on education and filling their time with a variety of activities before it's time to form a family,” she says.

“Medical advances have resulted in more types of treatments for assisted fertilization, IVF being the most common of these.”

However, women in Sweden cannot be over 40 if they want to receive IVF treatment.

The age limit has been questioned by several organisations including the Swedish Medical Council (Smer), who believe the age the limit is too low.

According to Smer, there isn't always a greater risk when getting pregnant at an older age, even though some medical studies do suggest there is a higher incidence of complications, birth defects and miscarriages.

Graph showing the number of pregnancies among 49-year-old women in the past 7 years. 

Rodriguez-Wallberg also believes that it is important to leave the mother to decide whether to take on the potential risks of pregnancy.

“A 45-year-old woman can of course be perfectly healthy and capable of giving birth to a healthy child,” she says.

For Wesström and her partner, getting pregnant wasn't that straightforward, even with medical assitance.

“It took a while, it's not done in a jiffy when you're old. You're not so fertile anymore at that age,” she told TT.

Wesström also points out that there are many benefits to being an older mother.

“I can recommend it. You have a more well-organized life and better finances when you're older.

“But I think it's extra important to have a good family network for the child,” she adds, in reference to the fact that as an older mother she is not as likely to be around for her child as long as if she was younger.
 

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